Claire Newbold, who has worked at the University of Reading for nine years, shares the joy behind her festive wreath-making classes which raise money for local charities.
Over the past 20 years, Claire has given up many hours of her time in the build-up to Christmas to run wreath-making and Christmas table arrangement classes for her local community. All of these classes take place in her own home and her dining room is turned into a flower workshop for the month.
Claire works at the University as Student Experience and Employability Lead in the School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences. Not only does she give her time for free to teach people a new art, but she also donates all of the proceeds to Smart Works Reading.
Claire said: “I’ve raised money for different charities over the years through my wreath-making workshops.
“I select a charity each year that needs urgent funds. Last year, I raised money for Smart Works, which is a UK charity that helps boosts the confidence of women entering and re-entering the workforce.”
Smart Works has supported 30,000 women over ten years, but it is crucially reliant on fundraising to deliver its services. To illustrate the extent of her support, Claire’s courses in December 2022 enabled her to single-handedly raise an astonishing £700 to help support the charity’s important work, and £800 in December 2023.
Spreading the festive cheer
Claire’s sessions aren’t just about raising money though – she’s also passionate about bringing her community together to learn a new skill.
She said: “I’m a qualified florist and a keen gardener. I try to grow a range of plants to support my floristry.
“The tradition of bringing greenery into our homes at Christmas is steeped in history with the circular form of the wreath, representing the circle of life. Some members of the local community join me every year – for them it symbolises the beginning of Christmas, with the opportunity to come together, socialise and be creative.
“Volunteering brings me a lot of pleasure. The workshops are a great way to share my skills with others and to see each person create a unique design.
“Everyone starts with the same ingredients and then decides which greenery and accessories to add to their own arrangement. It’s so exciting to see what everyone creates and to meet new people along the way.”
Celebration of Volunteering
Claire was nominated for Staff Volunteer of the Year at the University of Reading’s 2023 Celebration of Volunteering Awards, which is returning for a second year in 2024, with nominations opening in January.
Alumni are eligible for our Alumni and Supporter Volunteer of the Year Award – if you, or another graduate of the University you know, has gone above and beyond in their volunteering, whether for the University or in your own community, you can find out more here.
If you are interested in volunteering, the University of Reading Alumni Team can help. Contact Rachel Dean to find out more about our volunteering opportunities.